Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

Challenge 35 – “A book you own but have never read.”


★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Reading this book was a peculiar experience. It was both extremely interesting, and forgettable once put down. Even when a cliffhanger was reached, there was no particular desire to hurry back to the book, and yet as soon as the cover was opened and you began to read, you were hooked once again. It took me a while to try and figure out why this may be, although I believe I have finally cracked it. The novel is set between the supernatural world and ours (albeit around a century ago), but the dynamics of this relationship are slightly askew, and it is this uncomfortable weirdness surrounding the book that prevents it from being captivating.

The rest of the book, however, is rather qualm free. The writing was extremely beautiful, with some incredibly poetic phrases to describe even the simplest of experiences or scenes, and it was this poignancy that made me fall in love with Hardinge’s style of writing. The characters, despite being a little on the odd side, were credible and developed appropriately throughout the novel. Revelations were made early on as to the role of some characters, but this did not make the plot feel rushed or muddled at all, and was well-handled.

The lacking momentum of the novel was not aided by its length, either. There comes a point towards the end of the novel where everything seems to conclude, and Hardinge could easily have finished the novel here. It, nevertheless, continues with some incredible twists and well-crafted scenes, leading the reader to cherish these pages as well as resent. The middle to end of the novel becomes, by far, the best written, and on reflection it seems as if a disproportionate amount of time was spent at the holiday cottage, despite the importance of some scenes there.

As a whole the book was a great-read, with some outstanding metaphors and strong characters, but the disequilibrium of the genre balance and the misjudged length of the book meant that momentum was difficult to establish and maintain. A further revision of the novel, thinning irrelevant scenes and outlining the position of the world on the supernatural-reality spectrum could have led to the novel achieving so much more than the slightly uncomfortable universe it portrays.

Recommended for fans of:
– The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
– The Ragwitch by Garth Nix
– The Iron King by Julie Kagawa


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